Data Security Guidelines for Small Businesses

For small business lacking the huge budgets and infrastructures enjoyed by your corporate monoliths, data security can pose some seriously daunting questions.  How much security do I need?  What is the most reliable hardware or software?  Where do I start with formulating a company-wide data security policy?  As a small business owner these are only a few of the many of challenges you will be facing in an age when online pilfering is at all-time highs.

A data breach can easily lead to total business failure.  According to Privacy Rights Clearinghouse’s “Chronology of Data Breaches,” 80% of businesses that experience a breach end-up filing for bankruptcy.  Obviously, as a small business you cannot afford a data breach.           

Government entities, financial institutions, credit card and insurance companies have some of the most intensive data security measures in place and so they should.  Contrary to what many may think, you do not need military class software or hardware to verify valuable data is secure.  A sure-fire way to institute the most effective data security for small businesses is to create a well-organized plan that begins with classifying data into levels of significance.

Before breaking the bank on the newest technological innovations in data security solutions here are a few simple steps you can take to make sure you get off on the right foot.

  1. Organize – First and foremost it is important to organize your data into classes. Find out what information when in the wrong hands has the most potential to cause irreparable harm to your business and clients. This can include anything from email correspondence to credit card information to social security numbers. Also note what information is not as vital.  Lower level data still needs protection, but by creating a classification system you are already on your way to seeing the bigger picture in your data security needs.
  2. Divide and Conquer – Once you have organized your data find out what could be considered crucial data and isolate that information.  This is where you should focus your more intensive security measures.  Setting important data in a separate area makes it easier to manage an overall security plan.
  3. Establish the Rules – Research and implement a proven employee policy and stick to it.  This includes background checks and regulations on mobile computing and other personal devices that could be used to access your network.  Measures such as requiring passwords, avoiding downloads from unreliable websites and promoting a healthy separation of work and personal life online activities are all helpful suggestions.  These types of policies can also dissuade any security threats that might arise from internal sources.
  4. Analyze & Implement – With your information well-organized and classified, and with a solid internal policy in place it is now is the time to think of security costs versus security benefits.  Review your different data classes and internal needs then perform a cost comparison analysis. Use your well organized data as a guide to discovering the most effective security solutions.  Make sure to invest in the proper tools that will give you optimal levels of security leaving nothing to question.  For example, you should implement a strong firewall and if you are providing wireless access, make sure you use a strong WPA code.  No WEP!  On your workstations, there are several low-cost anti-malware tools available the most recent versions of Microsoft Windows operating systems support encrypted files and folders. 
  5. Update – Once you have decided on software and hardware it is important that those tools are updated on a regular basis.  This will verify your networks are not susceptible to constantly evolving online security threats from the outside.
  6. Consider a Pro – Finally, for the most water tight security measures it is highly recommended to work with an outsourced IT management company.  Information technology professionals possess the required experience to set you on the proper course and ensure long-term security.  They offer versatility and convenience. Outsourced IT managers can be employed as your in-house specialists or can be utilized on an as needed basis as consultants.  When doing this make certain that you have a clear understanding of everything a third-party is offering.  Execute the proper investigation and research over each service they offer to verify they are a good fit.  Even though they are managing your data security, you are still liable if any sensitive information is leaked.  You want an IT management company that is as equally invested in your data security as you are.

As subversive technology becomes more advanced, the numbers of data breaches are increasing yearly.  Take time to learn what kind of sensitive data you have and how to most effectively keep it safe.  You have work hard to establish a successful business; don’t make it easy for someone to take it all away.